Biden calls Houthis terrorists, then refuses to give them ‘irrelevant’ official designation

President Biden on Friday called the Houthi movement “terrorists” but refused to give Iran-allied militants an official terrorist group designation, calling the difference “irrelevant.”

Biden was asked about the “terrorist” label just hours after he ordered airstrikes against Yemen in response to Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea.

“Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group, sir?” a reporter asked the 81-year-old commander in chief while visiting small businesses in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“I think they are,” Biden responded.

In a later exchange, Biden ruled out the need for an official designation following the joint US-UK bombing, which Houthi leaders say killed five people. The offensive sparked a large anti-American demonstration in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital.

President Joe Biden speaks as he visits firefighters at the Allentown Fire Training Academy, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. AP

“A few minutes ago in the cafeteria, you said that you thought the Houthis were a terrorist group. I wonder: when are they willing to designate them as such? asked a journalist.

“It’s irrelevant whether we appoint them,” Biden said. “We have brought together a group of nations and we are going to say that if they continue to act and behave as they do, we will respond.”

The Biden administration delisted the Houthi movement, which controls most of northern Yemen, as a terrorist group in February 2021, rescinding the Trump administration’s stance, which only came into effect in the final days of his presidency. in January.

U.S. President Joe Biden answers questions from the press at Nowhere Coffee Co. in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 12, 2024. REUTERS

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Designation as a terrorist group would impose harsh penalties on anyone doing business with the movement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in 2021 that the political group was delisted “to ensure that relevant U.S. policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering from what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Yemenis take part in a demonstration in Sana’a, Yemen, January 12, 2024. Footage taken of an RAF typhoon over Yemen on Thursday, January 11, 2024, showing a targeted attack on Houthi military targets. UK Ministry of Defense/UPI/Shutterstock

The Houthis have controlled most of the country’s population centers since 2014, when the Shiite religious movement seized Sana’a after a simmering insurgency along the border with Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition was created under President Barack Obama to prevent militants from completely taking over the country by reversing their 2015 incursion into the southern city of Aden.

The coalition subsequently repelled an attempt by the Houthis to capture the city of Marib in 2021, which has long been a major stronghold in the north.

The stagnant power struggle contributed to widespread malnutrition and fighting between most internal factions, including southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates, has decreased since 2022.

The Houthis began attacking ships in the Red Sea in response to the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people, and coincides with attacks by other Iran-allied militias in Iraq and Syria against US military bases.

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